When you embark on pitching a new project in film and television, words can only take you so far. Cinema and television are visual mediums. That means, at times, a picture is worth a thousand words. Plus, executives hate to read. So how can you communicate to them what your project will look and feel like? Enter the lookbook.
Today I want to go over what a lookbook is, how you can make one, and look at a few examples of lookbooks I managed to dig up that can help you with your process.
Ready? Let's dive into the project together.
How to Make a Lookbook For Your Film or TV Project (with Examples)
After talking to a few friends across the industry, I felt like I heard a few definitions for lookbooks, so I think we should start at the basics.
What Is a Lookbook?
A lookbook is a carefully crafted assembly of images that illustrates a creative's vision for a movie or a TV show. It is usually put together inside a PDF or bound book. It has a narrative flow and takes its reader through the project's look, feel, and intended execution.
It's also sometimes called a "pitch deck."
'Lady Bird' lookbookCredit: Chips
Why Use a Lookbook?
A lookbook functions as a frame of reference for the audience. It can go into detail on specific elements like cinematography, color, production design, editing, and casting.
All of these categories (and more) are addressed using pictures from projects deemed to be similar. The creator may also want to use storyboards or other cinematics to show work already accomplished on said project. The lookbook is a visual blueprint for the project.
'Moonrise Kingdom'Credit: Focus Features
Who Uses Lookbooks?
Writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, costume designers, set decorators, and makeup artists all use lookbooks. They're ubiquitous across Hollywood, with people making them for movies, TV shows, web series, and commercials, among other projects.
When Is a Lookbook Made?
Lookbooks are made before projects go into production. They are typically used to help gather additional or initial funding for a project. You can use them to convince a studio to pick up a project or even to entice producers to join your project. They're often sent to talent to let them know what kind of movie or TV show they could star in.
How to Make a Lookbook
To get all the visuals you want down for a lookbook, you should first start by compiling a folder with all the relevant images you think are evocative of the project. You can find high-res images on sites like Film.ai.
I prefer working with Keynote as well as Adobe InDesign. I like to Google new fonts and templates to help inspire me (try Font Squirrel). After you have all the images and a template you want, you just plug in the photos and then add some headers that help the reader go through a journey inside your images.
You may also want to add a few text boxes explaining your strategy and choices.
What Goes Into a Lookbook?
Think about who this lookbook is going to, and then add headers accordingly. I like to make sure I cover the following:
- Director's statement
Then I end with a brief wrap-up about why I think this project matters.
Your lookbook can be as long as it needs to be. Mine usually clock in around 25-30 pages, depending on the project. If it's a TV show and I have to cover some ongoing ideas or a plethora of characters, maybe it goes longer. Each of these I limit to only a few hundred words or less. I want to make the visuals pop.
Lookbook Examples in Film and TV
Many creative lookbooks or pitch decks are available if you Google. You can see some for fashion and for TV commercials. but I wanted to bring you some film and TV show examples here, because they are a little harder to find.
One of the most famous ones available was the one Jodorowsky did for his Dune project, which never happened, but contains some of the most beautiful concept art and ideas I have ever seen.
Look at some of the work on Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird.
When it comes to TV shows, I was really moved by the excellent Russian Doll lookbook, which you can view here.
And after that, check out a more descriptive lookbook for a movie called Black Mitzvah here.
Finally, I would encourage you to see how Stranger Things combined their lookbook and bible into something moody and memorable to talk about what happens and show you the story.
There's no wrong way to make a lookbook. Experiment and see what your audience loves. Test them on your friends.
Summing Up How to Make a Lookbook
I am a huge fan of lookbooks. I think they bridge the gap between artist and executive. You get to see the vision on the page, making the project feel real. You can usually tell right away whether or not you vibe with it as well. Plus, you can get a lazy executive to look at pictures faster than you can get them to read.
Hopefully, the examples and direction have schooled you in the art form. Now it's time to go out and make a few on your own.
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips or tricks of the trade you think everyone should know.